Common Horse Coat Colors

Horses come in a variety of colors and patterns. Here are some of the basic ones you might come across.

Horse Coat Colors

Horses come in a variety of vivid coat colors, ranging from solid and static to multifaceted and ever-changing. These coat colors are controlled by complex genetics. Here, we showcase some common equine coat colors you might come across.

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Bay

Bay horses have brown bodies and black manes, tails, and points on their legs, faces, and ears.

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Chestnut

Chestnut horses have red coats that can range from light (called sorrel by many stock-breed registries) to liver (dark). They can also showcase flaxen manes and tails, which are lighter the horse’s coat.

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Black

A true black horse has a pure black coat, with no brown hairs. The coat sometimes has a blue hue to it.

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Seal Brown

Seal brown horses are nearly black but have brown hairs in the fleshy parts of their body, usually around the muzzle, elbow, and flank.

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Dun

Dun horses come in a variety of shades but all showcase some of the characteristic “primitive” dun factors: dorsal stripe, leg baring (horizontal striping on legs), ear frames (dark-tipped ears), face masking (dark points on the face), shoulder blade stripes, frosting (light hairs) in the mane and tail, and cobwebbing throughout the coat. Colors in this group include the bay dun (also known as zebra dun), red dun (with a red or chestnut mane and tail), and blue dun (also commonly called grulla).

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Buckskin

Buckskin horses have golden coats, black points (legs and ears), and black manes and tails. They are distinct from the similarly colored zebra or “classic” dun, because buckskins do not feature dun factor.

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Palomino

Palominos have golden coats and creamy white manes and tails. Palominos' base coat can range from a pale yellow to a rich, gold color.

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Gray

Horses with the gray gene are born another color, such as bay, chestnut, or even palomino or dun, and gray over time. Gray foals are often born otherwise solid with “gray goggles,” which is slight graying around the eyes. A light gray is distinguished from other light- or white-colored horses by the presence of dark-pigmented skin.

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Roan

Roan horses have white hairs or ticking throughout their coats. Roans are born with their coat color and do not change (at least much) over time. Roans come in a variety of base colors, including but not limited to strawberry (bay), red (chestnut), and blue (black).

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Appaloosa

Appaloosa patterns come in a myriad of colors and spotting and/or blanket variations. Many look as though someone has covered them with a white blanket covered in spots. Coat patterns can include, but aren’t limited to, leopard (a white body covered in darker spots), the ever-changing roan or snowflake blanket (Appaloosa roans are different than traditional roans, which do not change), few spots (like the name sounds, these horses are blanketed but have “few spots”).

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Pinto

Pinto coloring looks as though someone has splashed white paint over an otherwise-colored horse, or colored paint over an otherwise-white horse, leaving large splotches (which are larger than an Appaloosa’s spots). Paint and pinto colors are controlled by several different genes and come in a variety of colors and combinations.

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